Higgens, Wool vie for state house
Sun Star Reporter
For Alaska Senate House District 5, the freshman incumbent is Pete Higgins, (R), he is challenged this year by Adam Wool (D). The district includes UAF, University West, the south Van Horn Road area and Chena Ridge.
Both men have local roots and earned their undergraduate degrees at UAF. Higgins is a Fairbanks dentist when the legislature isn’t in session, and Wool owns and manages The Blue Loon.
Ballot Measure 2
Ballot Measure 2 “would tax and regulate the production, sale, and use of marijuana in Alaska,” for people over the age of 21, according to the Alaska 2014 Voter’s Guide.
Wool supports the law. “Control it. Tax it,” Wool said. He believes that it will be less accessible to kids, while being more accessible to those who already use medical marijuana, if the law passes.
Higgins is not against a measure to legalize marijuana, but he doesn’t believe that the proposed law, as written, is the right way to do it. He said that as written, “there are simply too many holes” and not enough regulation. He believes that most of the issues could be fixed by the legislature, and passed in a comprehensive way that he could support.
Ballot Measure 3
Both candidates favor Ballot Measure 3, which would increase the minimum wage in Alaska to $8.75 on January 1, 2015 and increase it on January 1, 2016 to $9.75, with adjustments for inflation each year. It includes a requirement that Alaska’s minimum wage always be at least $1 more per hour than the federal minimum wage, and does not allow tips to count towards the minimum wage that workers are paid by employers.
Ballot Measure 4
This measure requires the state legislature to approve future mining projects in Bristol Bay by passing a law whereby any proposed mine would not endanger the Bristol Bay Fisheries.
Higgins and Wool both see benefits and drawbacks to the Pebble Mine project.
Wool is not opposed to all mining and thinks that the Fort Knox and Pogo mines are an important part of the economy in the Interior. He sees a mine in Bristol Bay as a bad idea, because it would be in the middle of one of the last pristine salmon fisheries in the world. “If it was anywhere else, it would be different,” Wool said. “You never hear of a fishery endangering a mine, but this is a mine that would endanger a fishery.” For Wool, even though he understands there is a lot of money that could be made from the Pebble Mine, he says that especially after the tailings (what are tailings? What is so bad about a tailings breech?) breech at the Mount Polley mine in British Columbia this year, that “It’s a tough sell.” Wool will be voting in favor of Ballot Measure 4.
Higgins will be voting against Ballot Measure 4, because he doesn’t think the federal government should be telling Alaska how it can use its resources. He believes that the permitting process, laid out by the state is adequate, saying “We ought to let the process work,” instead of trying to stop the process.
Education, Research and Stable Funding
Higgins and Wool both see UAF as a major resource to the state and think that more partnerships with businesses and the state government can be a benefit to the entire state.
Wool thinks that the legislators in Juneau need to spend more time listening to the scientists and researchers on the front line, who are often based at UAF. “You need good science to make good policy,” Wool said.
Wool also believes that legislators need a better understanding of the impacts of climate change, and that “if you are making a decision about an area, legislators should be there” to see firsthand the needs of communities impacted.
Higgins sees UAF as one of the key partners in creating programs that benefit the entire state. He supports the new film program at UAF, and the tax credits for films shot in Alaska. Higgins sees UAF as a vital part of creating new industries in Alaska. With the Russian polar route open, he believes that Alaska must open the Northwest Passage for economic and security reasons, something he sees UAF scientists as providing vital support in developing.
Guns on campus
The candidates have very different ideas about whether guns belong on college campuses. Higgins supports allowing anyone with a concealed carry permit to carry a gun on campus.
“I’ve seen it save lives,” Higgins said, although he doesn’t think that changing the current rules is a legislative priority for the next session. He supports each university campus making choices that work best for that campus.
Wool doesn’t believe that guns need to be in student housing or in classrooms on campuses, especially on a residential campus like UAF. While he supports the second amendment, he doesn’t think that having guns on campus makes for a safer campus.
Smoking ban on campus
Both candidates are in favor of fewer students smoking, and keeping cigarette smoke away from nonsmokers. Wool points out that The Blue Loon voluntarily made the switch to a nonsmoking establishment. Both men are skeptical that the school could enforce a smoking ban.
The General Election will be held Nov. 4, but early voting has already started. To vote early, you can go to the Fairbanks Region Election office on 675 7th Avenue, any weekday. You can vote at the Patty Center on Nov. 3 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.